A couple of weeks ago, I hung out with Dana, a formerly non-techie gal pal of mine. Once averse to using cell phones for anything but calls, she was now showing off her new-found texting prowess on her sleek BlackBerry Bold. Over the next 20 minutes, she shot off no less than 3 quick texts and two e-mails. Not to be outdone, I pulled out my iPhone and checked my messages.
Dana looked over and asked how I liked it. Well, that gave me permission to gush like a kid on Christmas morning! I showed her this feature and that app, and then handed it to her so she could experience the big, beautiful screen and swipy goodness for herself. I expected her to revel in its glory, but instead, she played with it for a moment, said it was nice and then handed it back to me.
Wha-? Is she kidding? I felt like a parent whose kid was picked last for kickball. This tasty piece of tech had changed my life. It kept me on time for appointments, offered endless entertainment and gameplay, and kept me connected with loved ones in ways I'd never even conceived of before. That she wasn't kneeling in front of it left me befuddled and nearly offended.
"You don't like it?" I was flabbergasted.
"No, it's gorgeous. Seriously. I was even thinking of getting one, but look at these," she said, holding up her
painted fingernails. "MAYBE I can get used to swiping with these, but there's no way I can touch type on a
I had to admit she had a point. Dana's perfectly manicured fingers would never be able to fly on my beloved phone like they do on her BlackBerry.
Later, during a Thanksgiving visit to my brother-in-law's house, he mentioned that he might buy his wife an iPhone 3G. Honestly, I had mixed emotions. I love my phone, but after talking with Dana, I realized that buying gadgets for girls is like gifting clothes -- No matter what the item promises, no one size ever truly fits all. Clothes and gadgets need to suit the unique preferences of the individual woman.
So if you're thinking of giving a cell phone to your wife/mother/daughter/sister/girlfriend this holiday season, how can you possibly know what she's going to like? Well, there are a few things you could (and should) bear in mind before you pony up the dough. (And if there are any ladies in the viewing audience, please pipe in and add to the list, if you see anything missing.)
10 TIPS FOR CHOOSING A CELL PHONE SHE'LL LOVE
(1) Be certain she wants a new phone (duh). I've had friends who carted cells long past their prime. Why? Some had simply grown fond of their old phones or didn't want a learning curve. Others just couldn't care less about new features, as long as the calling was solid. If your intended recipient thinks of upgrading as an unnecessary chore, you may want to rethink this. She probably won't be as ecstatic about the G1 as you are. Speaking of which...
(2) Don't buy something just because YOU would love it. Maybe having 50 different apps or functions excites you, but the recipient may not want that much phone. Identify her most desired features by assessing her habits. When you call, does she usually text you back? Is she always stopping for pics everywhere you go? Does she gab on the phone for hours? Or travel abroad often? Once you know what her priorities are, you can eliminate phones that don't have easy-to-use text, top-of-the-line camera, enormous battery life, GSM compatibility, etc.
(3) Consider her personality and style. Although it's true that a lot of women love pink cell phones -- especially since Carrie Bradshaw showed off hers in Sex and the City -- it doesn't mean that all of us adore a girly hue. (Personally, I prefer gun metal grey, but I've always been a bit of a tomboy.) Personalities and tastes vary widely. Shopping for a goth chick, athlete, nature lover, sci-fi nerd, hippie or fashionista should yield very different items. Even if she's more pragmatic than stylish, that should still tell you something about her preferences. Use this information to help narrow down the choices even further.
(5) Factor in the UI. In other words, check out her hands, dude. As I mentioned, on-screen keyboards are no friend to girls with talons.
(6) Look beyond the clothes. (Uh wait, let me rephrase that...) Does she love jewelry? Hats? Does she have a huge collection of patterned tights? You might have an accessories junkie on your hands. The cool thing about hot phones is that there are usually tons of ways to trick them out, and your gal can have fun shopping for new cases, skins, holsters, etc., so make sure you pick a mobile phone that's current enough to still have plenty of optional accessories on the market. (In Asia, consumption by teenage girls has elevated cell phone dongles to an art form -- and big business.)
(7) Check out her other everyday gear. Yes, those stiletto heels might float your boat, but if she runs around town in sneakers and a big messenger bag (or ballerina flats and a small clutch), this will tell you a lot more about how she functions. Large backpacks or executive totes indicate a multi-tasker who may need lots of features. Little day purses, however, could be a red flag that a bulky, feature-packed phone would bog her down, especially if it's too big for her bag or pants pocket.
(8) Note her tech proficiency. As far as I'm concerned, I'd love to put the stereotype of girls not liking technology to rest. Still, I grudgingly admit that there are plenty who'd rather have root canal than figure out a new handheld. If she's the type who has trouble cutting-and-pasting on her computer, DO NOT buy a phone that requires a dense manual. The only gift you're giving is frustration.
(9) Don't rule out pay-as-you-go phones. If this is her first phone (Yes, there are at least a few people out there who are still cell-less), and you're footing the monthly bills for your wife/daughter/mother, take a look at a pre-paid phone. This won't be a particularly hot gadget, but for a gifter on a budget and a kid who just wants to stay connected with her friends, it's still a treat.
(10) Know the real gift you're giving. All of these tips really boil down to just one thing: paying thoughtful attention to your recipient. I promise you, this is the real gift. Even if she doesn't like the cell phone you ultimately pick for her, she will LOVE the fact that you were so attentive to her needs.